Type to search

The Tea Party Case For A Higher Minimum Wage

Memo Pad Politics

The Tea Party Case For A Higher Minimum Wage


If Tea Party Republicans were political animals, they’d support President Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. I know that sounds insane. A federally mandated wage appears to embody most everything the Tea Party stands against.

But as the Tea Party struggles in this year’s midterm elections against the Republican establishment, perhaps it should rethink using the primary as its weapon of choice. If you want to beat the big-business wing of the GOP, challenging incumbents is only one way to do it. Another way is to hit big business where it hurts — and that means joining the Democrats in raising the minimum wage.

This is asking a lot. Tea Party Republicans believe maximum individual liberty means minimal government “interference” in the lives of individuals. Indeed, supporting any wage law might be tantamount to treason for some in their ranks. But it isn’t as ideologically distasteful as it first appears.

In economic terms, the Tea Party has a history going back to Thomas Jefferson. The founding father envisioned a decentralized government serving regional economies built by independent and self-reliant farmers, artisans and merchants. Today, these are called entrepreneurs, small-business owners, or the “engines of the economy.” To the Tea Party, these are the doers, the makers, the producers, the people who make America great.

Jefferson did not imagine a world transformed by an industrial revolution after which corporations dominated a national economy and employed legions of workers. The very idea of a corporation and a working class, historian Michael Lind once told me, runs counter to the dearly held image of the free yeoman farmer: “In the Jeffersonian system, wage-dependent proletarians are parasites, not producers, and the goal of Jeffersonian political economy is to turn proletarians into producers.”

Large corporations offend the Jeffersonian vision in another way. They use their enormous influence to bend government policy to their will, perverting free markets and corrupting fair competition. Some libertarian economists call this “corporatism” while others simply call it “crony capitalism.” Either way, it is the reality of small businesses. Mom-and-pop retailers in Connecticut pay higher taxes on less revenue than a Walmart store in the same town, because tax law permits it to claim that money in low-tax states like Arkansas.

At its best (that is, when expressed without the taint of racism), the Tea Party worldview would fix the economy by releasing the working class from the bonds of wage slavery and welfare, and by forcing corporations to compete fairly. The way to achieve that is by starving the federal budget to preclude handouts to corporations grown dependent on subsidies and to a working class grown dependent on wages and welfare.

One might think raising the minimum wage contradicts all this, but it doesn’t.

The Jeffersonian worldview makes room for government “interference,” as long as it helps those who help themselves. Yes, raising the minimum wage increases worker pay, but more important is that raising the minimum wage helps small businesses. As small-business owner said in a new survey conducted by Advocates for Independent Business: “We need to raise the minimum wage to get the economy growing again.”

Indeed, the people most concerned about raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour are the owners and managers of large corporations, because higher wages eat into their profits.

If Tea Party Republicans want to force the GOP establishment to stand for principle, they have to make the Republican Party’s big-business faction feel some pain, and to do that, they should threaten to join Democrats in raising the minimum wage. Higher wages are among the things big business fears most.

It’s not just a good political move. It’s entirely consistent with principles first laid out by one of the founding fathers.

The question is whether Tea Party Republicans are aware of their history and whether they can disentangle themselves from big-business benefactors who have since 2010 exploited the Tea Party’s energy to achieve their profit-preserving objectives.

Indeed, if Tea Party Republicans did decide to stand for raising the minimum wage, they might see their funding disappear.

That shouldn’t deter a movement dedicated to principle above all.

John Stoehr is managing editor of The Washington Spectator. Follow him on Twitter and Medium.

AFP Photo/Andrew Burton



  1. ModDem67 March 25, 2014

    I believe the Tea Party was started by people who were tired of wasteful government spending and saw the bank bailout as over the line. I also believe they have since been co-opted by bigots against a black president and corporate welfare hawks who don’t want “their” money going to those who “don’t want to work” (e.g the 47%). That is why the Tea Party will never back a raise in the minimum wage, especially one put forth by a black man.

    1. paulyz March 26, 2014

      ModDem, your 1st. sentence is correct but after that it is just your incorrect opinion. Tea Party members have always supported anyone, regardless of race or gender, if they uphold their values of a limited Federal Government, less taxes, a balanced-budget to stop all the deficit spending, & wasteful spending & debt.
      The Tea Party supports Dr. Ben Carson & Allen West for President very enthusiastically, & they are both Black.

      1. ProudACLU March 26, 2014

        The current Tea party has no values other than to reject anything the government does – they shame our founders by taking their name!!

        1. 1standlastword March 26, 2014


      2. charleo1 March 26, 2014

        Name one corporate subsidy the T-Party supports cutting,
        or eliminating. The truth is, the T-Party has no problem with
        the size of government. It’s all about who benefits from it.

        1. 1standlastword March 26, 2014

          We’re waiting Paulyz

      3. Sand_Cat March 26, 2014

        Another idiotic post by our resident idiot.

      4. Independent1 March 26, 2014

        Balanced budgets for federal governmens is idiotic they lead only to robbing Peter to Pay paul (stealing for the poor and needy to subsidize corporations) – Democrats have curbed deficit spending every time they’ve been in office after they’ve followed a drunk-sailor spending Republican like Nixon in his 2nd term, Regan and the 2 Bushes.
        You don’t need to balance a budget to cut deficit spending – just elect a Democrat: Carter was the only president in the 20th Century to reduce America’s debt to 35% of GDP; Clinton reduced deficit spending such that he governed with 3 surplus budgets and Obama has reduced deficit spending faster than any president since Truman.

      5. old_blu March 27, 2014

        Until the Tea Party can grow up and go out into the political world as an official party and can demonstrate that they have the ability to raise money,

        with a message that is more than “We hate ____________” fill in the blank,

        and can actually elect candidates with TP after their name,

        they’re just an annoyance.

    2. FredAppell March 26, 2014

      I’m fairly certain the Tea Party was a total concoction of the Koch brothers from the start. I think the original appeal of the Tea Party was in a very carefully designed message that the Kochs were using to manipulate supporters into getting the message out. The idea that it was a grassroots movement is a myth, Kochs had their paid lackeys on the ground ready to go to implement the movement. No sooner was President Obama elected and boom! All of a sudden America was introduced to a very well organized movement, the timing was a wee bit conspicuous in my opinion.

  2. charleo1 March 26, 2014

    Tea Party Republicans believe maximum individual liberty means minimal government “interference” in the lives of individuals. And the fox believes
    maximum results at the hen house, means locking the guard dog in the barn. In my opinion the difference between a T-Party Republican, and a big business Republican, is like the difference between a Schnauzer, and a Yorkie. They are both dependable lap dogs, the Schnauzer does tend to yap a lot more.

  3. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh March 26, 2014

    To the author of this article: Thomas Jefferson may have written about the “Yeoman Farmer” but he had no idea what a free-holding farmer’s life was like. He was a slave owner on a large plantation, only without the management skills of George and Martha Washington. Everything he needed (after his marriage to Martha Hemmings) was handed to him, including her half-sister as a “bed warmer”.
    Jefferson also did everything he could to damage and destroy the government from within, even attempting to set himself up above Congress and the Supreme Court. So, please, do not use him as your example. His greatness passed after writing the Declaration of Independence and the Fundamental Rights, and founding UVA!

    1. dmhlt_66 March 26, 2014

      What utter BS!

      1. raginyank March 26, 2014

        Have a hard time with the truth do ya? Do not believe what you are told is the truth to begin with; always consider the source.
        When someone tells you that increasing minimum wage will cause business to fail; consider the source!
        How many McDonald’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts do you see closing because they can not compete?

        1. dmhlt_66 March 26, 2014

          What the HELL are you blabbering about?
          My response was to ivS13’s attack on Thomas Jefferson.
          Next time, try to READ what is being discussed.

  4. charleo1 March 26, 2014

    How gullible are Americans? That is a question that has been at the core of the Right Wing astroturf extravaganza, known as the T. E. A.-Party, since it’s conception in a Koch Brothers, John Birch Society think tank. Even it’s name is a misnomer. “Taxed enough already,” at a time in which taxes at the Federal level, had not been lower in 80 years! Just as the economy was making a mockery out of bedrock Conservative ideology, by collapsing after the most severe round of tax cutting, and deregulation in the Country’s history. Here were these idiots were, marching around in 16th century garb, and their, “Don’t tread on me,” flags, they had found, “somewhere.” As the Fox News cameras whirred. They weren’t incensed about the bank bailout. As I recall, the Country they used to control had just rejected their candidate. A 70 something, cancer surviver, and his air head running mate, in their bid to lead the stricken Nation. And they were apocalyptic about who the Country had chosen instead. So the, lilly White, “Taxed Enough Already,” folks weren’t actually about taxes, or the Constitution, or Liberty, or, big government deficits. They were the embodiment of the Right Wing’s lividness at the thought of losing forever the privilege, and advantage that had always been part of the package of being a White male, in the United States of America.

    1. 1standlastword March 26, 2014

      I think you just delivered a deathblow to Paulyz…LOL!!

  5. howa4x March 26, 2014

    If the tea party were really against the establishment republicans, they would back this minimum wage push. It came out yesterday that Wal-Mart’s main business profit is from food stamps and that they pay their workers as little as possible. Tea party members should be against this because it’s like a government funded industry .If people were paid more they wouldn’t need food stamps. The Walton family is worth 115 billion, why do they need to be subsidized by the tax payers?
    There is more waste in defense spending than anywhere else in the federal budget. The new x 22 jet fighter cost 3 billion/plane with all the cost over runs. Why isn’t the tea party upset by this waste? Why do we need a 600 ship navy? To fight who? Do you know to dock a ship in Japan cost 2 million/day?
    The tea party’s unpopularity comes from its willingness to get involved in and regulate people’s sex lives, refusal to understand the science of Climate change, and other environmental issues, it’s refusal to protect children, and it’s slavish ass kissing of the super rich, who get them to vote against their own interests. Why aren’t they yelling about closing tax loop holes or corporate subsidies to agro business.
    This is why the masses reject the tea party and why they will never be a factor outside of the south and mid west because they need an unintelligent population to recruit, and that is where they all live.

  6. johninPCFL March 26, 2014

    This ultimately gets back to the fact that over 3/4 of new job creation is in small businesses. These businesses generally do not start out raising capital from banks or external sources, but from private savings. They start out by themselves, or with an employee or two. They are exempt from the ACA and fully realize what they will be paying for those employees. Adding 1/3 of an employee’s cost to the wages paid has no effect on their starting out because they start with the minimum necessary to meet customer requirements – it’s the cost of the ticket. Having taken the risks and invested their own time and money, they typically lose money or break even for some period of time and pay no income taxes.
    The “job creators” so often worshipped by the TP create jobs for money managers. The folks they disparage create the jobs that grow the economy.

  7. Sand_Cat March 26, 2014

    Good old IE or this site kept losing my post; see image below.

  8. FredAppell March 26, 2014

    Never! I don’t care how useful they might be in fighting the GOP. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not a sound strategy, as a matter of fact, it almost always results in failure. The Tea Party is not about compromise. We would only be complicating matters if we were to try to strike a deal with the TP. Democrats are much better off trying to appeal to the most moderate Republicans, that’s where we should be concentrating our efforts.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.